Michael Sharpe remembered as fearless journalist

VETERAN Jamaican journalist Michael Sharpe was yesterday remembered as one who was fearless while on the job and who was never afraid to give young people a shot at success in journalism.

Sharpe, who spent close to 40 years in the profession, died in hospital yesterday morning at the age of 65. He had been ailing for some time.

Television Jamaica (TVJ) news reporter Janella Precius yesterday recalled being captivated by energy that Sharpe exuded when carrying out his job, whether he was gathering footage on battlegrounds between the police and thugs, or as an anchor on TVJ’s Prime Time News. She revealed that Sharpe and a group of male journalists who were part of a “Men In Black” group that he formed, which inspired her to make the switch from CVM to TVJ.

At the time of his passing, Sharpe was head of the Jamaica News Network (JNN), a subsidiary of the RJRGLEANER Communications Group of which TVJ is a member.

“I met Sharpe interestingly in 2005 while I was at CVM. When you work for different media houses, there is always this level of competition but he was always embracing. It didn’t matter your media house, he was always very helpful and respectful. When I came to TVJ I was pretty excited having to work with him. There was a unit in the newsroom called the ‘Men In Black’. It was Michael, Oral Napier, Kenrick Barnaby, and around two others. They literally ran the road at nights. They used to be with the police as they went into volatile communities and basically put themselves at risk to tell you the story. When I was asked to present on television, he was very encouraging.

“Him buss nuff youths in media. Working alongside him as an anchor, what I loved about him was his energy, his ability to stay composed, when everything was chaotic around us, as is the nature of live television. He was able to go off script very seamlessly and I loved sitting next to him, presenting the news. I was learning at his feet. He was the master at it.

JNN was like a training ground. He taught production work, journalism and put people on air. Mind you, some of them were not ready to go on air, but he said, ‘If that is your interest, then nuh worry yourself. Mi ago give you the opportunity’. He taught me how to write, to produce and how to ask questions. There are very few people who will hold your hand and take you through. He has done what a lot of elders in the profession have failed to do. They are very critical of you, but they would never take your hand and say this is how it is done,” said Precius.

Rohan Powell, another journalist who worked closely with Sharpe at TVJ, said they had known each other for more than two decades and said it was an honour, during his career, to have worked alongside “Sharpie” in the some of the grittiest sections of Kingston where crime was rampant.

“I was exposed to his excellent news gathering skills, bank of contacts and adopting the right touch to a story. I will never forget the ups and downs. Incidentally, the best news tips came during many discussions at various ‘watering holes’, when we would have spared time to lyme. There was never a dull day in his company,” Powell, who now works in public service, told the Observer .

Social media buzzed yesterday with messages of condolence to Sharpe’s family, friends and colleagues. Prime Minister Andrew Holness, in a tweet, said, “I am saddened to learn of the passing of veteran journalist Michael Sharpe this morning. For almost 40 years, Sharpe dedicated himself to the craft of journalism and keeping Jamaica informed. Michael was fearless and sharp in his coverage and commentary”.

The Jamaica Constabulary Force also issued condolence via Twitter yesterday. Sharpe was also a district constable for many years.

Governor General Sir Patrick Allen, in a release, he was shocked at Sharpe’s passing.

Sir Patrick described Sharpe as the consummate journalist, media professional and media educator who had a healthy respect for nationhood.

“Mr Sharpe will always be remembered for his contribution to the social programmes of the Office of His Excellency, The Governor General and staff. It is my hope that Mr Sharpe’s passion and commitment to firm journalistic judgement will live on in the many students he has trained throughout the years.”

Sharpe, who was news operations manager at JNN, was a relief host for the talkshow Hotline, and did the morning traffic report once weekly.

He joined the staff at Radio Jamaica in March 1984, after he distinguished himself during coverage of the Grenada invasion in October 1983. He had previously did stints at the Gleaner and the Jamaica Information Service after he returned to Jamaica from journalism studies in New York. He won national recognition for his coverage of the one-party Parliament in the 1980s and hosted the morning feature, Inside Gordon House, in the 1990s. Sharpe also served as deputy news editor for RJR in the 1990s and hosted night-time talk show, Sharp Talk, which led to numerous fund-raising initiatives to solve problems faced by disadvantaged individuals.

Sharpe co-anchored TVJ’s Primetime News with Dorraine Samuels for more than a decade.

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